While waiting for his unfaithful wife Sheila to come home, 38-year-old Jim Seathwaite--a semi-successful clothing-store executive in suburban southeast England--reviews his life, vowing to remember it all, ""holding nothing back,"" digging out all the awful secrets. He remembers being--at age eight--a half-aware witness to his mother's adultery with his uncle. He remembers his father's car-crash death (accident? suicide?) after the adultery was revealed. He remembers his mother's subsequent lively sex life (she ""started to put it out like mad as soon as she was widowed, and has continued to do so right up till now and will never stop as long as she has the strength to open her legs""). And he remembers his own problematic sex life: obsessive concern over his modest genital size; inability to lose his virginity (impotence, premature ejaculation); finally, the appearance of his boss' secretary Sheila--who reassured him and instantly got him functioning. (And, by marrying her, he pleased the firm by breaking up Sheila's embarrassing affair with his boss.) So now Jim has two kids and, though Sheila sleeps around (just like that other ""bitch,"" his mother), he'll try to be happy: ""I am a man and nothing can take that away from me. If I never have sex again, she's given me that. She spoke the releasing, healing words--Never hurry, Never worry. . . "" If all this sounds like a case history from a sex manual, hat's pretty much how it reads: Jim is a whiny, self-pitying narrator whose naivetÃ‰ is awesome (he explains why he never sought psychiatric help, but not why he never even peeked at a book on anatomy or sex); and his prose gets tortuous when going on about his ""wound"" or about ""that wonderful female smell."" Too bad, because Braine (Room at the Top) can still write scenes in sharp, clean detail--scenes that here are obscured by dubious psychology and drowned in Jim's maudlin, droning self-dramatization.